BookmarkBookmarkTick

Why IVF Is Worth The Risk

ByKylie McConville
Updated
Mar 2017
Hero Image
Image: Bourn Hall Clinic

To date, millions and millions of babies have come into this world via in vitro fertilization (IVF), and recently, researchers have set out to document, define and understand the health effects and lasting influences the fertility treatment process has on a young child’s early development.

In previous studies, scientists found a correlation between IVF procedures and neurological disorders, with a small (but still, significant) risk of intellectual disabilities in twins and triplets born through IVF. The research did not find a connection in single-baby births.

So as part of their current work, researchers studied 2.5 million Swedish children to determine whether IVF procedures make children more vulnerable to certain cognitive and developmental delays. They compared the IVF babies to those who were conceived naturally and found that 47 in every 100,000 infants born via IVF developed cognitive deficits, such as low IQ or delays in communication. Interestingly enough, researchers found that 40 in every 100,000 children conceived without the help of IVF experienced the same delays. Lead study author Sven Sandin of King’s College in London said, “For IVF there are known risks already, such as birth defects and caner, and no mental retardation should perhaps be added.” However, researchers did find that specific IVF procedures (which involved more manipulation of the sperm to promote fertilization) were more likely to be associated with higher rates of neurological issues than just the IVF by itself, which suggests that male-based fertility issues may have a stronger correlation with later cognitive deficiencies.

Perhaps the most telling of the research came when scientists focused in on just single-baby births. They found that the link to intellectual deficits was no longer significant. The results confirm what previous studies identified as a greater risk of birth defects and developmental problems among multiple births, which are more common with IVF since doctors often transfer several embryos during a cycle to improve a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.

Related Video

While the research is very telling, our immediate reaction is: IVF is still worth the risk.

Take, for instance, the number of children involved in the study. There was only a 7-child difference in the number of delays found in IVF babies versus children who were conceived naturally. While the delays are important for prospective IVF candidates to be aware of, it doesn’t seem like huge red flag warning. If the numbers were skewed in favor of natural conception, then it might be time to look into developing other, safer methods to assist in conception, but that is not the case.

Sandin and his colleagues assert that “despite the slightly increased relative risk, the absolute risk of problems with IVF remain small.” Also important to keep in mind is that most of the added problems were associated with certain infertility procedures and were not specific to just IVF. “The risk should however be considered, together with a clinician, to be treatment-specific,” he said.

So far, over 5 million children have been born via IVF and most are healthy.

Dr. Avner Hershlag, chief of the Center for Human Reproduction at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., who was not involved with the study, said, “I am not aware of a case of mental retardation or autism in babies resulting from our treatment,” which doesn’t mean that there aren’t cases of cognitive and development delays (because there are), but it doesn’t mean that every instance of IVF puts baby at a greater risk. Hershlag said, “Based on the available data, in general we tell parents that IVF is safe and to a large degree, babies born from IVF are healthy and grow into healthy adults.”

Plus, it’s also time to consider the future of IVF and how doctors and scientists alike are working round the clock to make IVF an affordable, more successful procedure for women and their partners. While it seems there is a little risk involved, it’s one many women would take in a heartbeat.

Is IVF still worth the risk for you?

bravo tv star writes book for children explaining infertility

Bravo TV Star’s New Book Wants to Teach Kids IVF Is Totally Normal

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
03/24/2020
actress amy schumer posts about her egg retrieval procedure

Amy Schumer Is Staying Positive Through Egg Retrieval Procedure

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
01/14/2020
amy schumer with chris fischer

Amy Schumer Reveals IVF Struggle and Reaches Out to Fans for Support

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
01/10/2020
mina starsiak hawk opens up about her infertility struggles on instagram

HGTV Star Mina Starsiak Reveals Infertility Struggle and IVF Journey

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
12/12/2019
new parents happily holding their newborn baby

This Picture Book Wants to Teach Kids That IVF Is Completely Normal

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
12/05/2019
chrissy teigen and john legend sitting together at en event

John Legend Gets Real on How IVF Changed His Relationship With Teigen

profile picture of Nehal Aggarwal
Nehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
11/15/2019
mom opens up about her decision to have her children via reciprocal ivf

How Reciprocal IVF Let Two Moms Both Be a Part of Creating Their Baby

profile picture of Christina Bailey
Christina Bailey
Co-Creator of Baby Bailey Mama Drama
birthday cake with confetti sprinkles

World’s First IVF Baby Celebrates 41st Birthday

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
07/25/2019
Baby born with genes from three different people.

How a Baby in Greece Was Born With Genes From Three People

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
04/12/2019
woman reflects on her emotional ivf journey

New Mom Reflects on the Emotional Roller Coaster That Is IVF

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
01/08/2019
image of one couple's rainbow baby and the process of ivf represented in the fertility treatment shots.

Powerful IVF Newborn Photo Celebrates Parents' Rainbow Baby

profile picture of Stephanie Grassullo
Stephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
08/20/2018
john legend with pregnant wife, chrissy teigen

Chrissy Teigen, Honest as Ever, Defends Fan Who Asks About IVF

profile picture of Laurie Ulster
Laurie Ulster
Contributing Writer
Published
06/29/2018
collage illustrating baby born 4 years after parents death

This Baby Was Born Four Years After His Parents Died

profile picture of Anisa Arsenault
Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
04/12/2018
Article removed.